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We all do it. Sometimes it's obvious hyperbole - such as, "I'll never get out of work" or "5pm will never come." I'm not talking about that kind. I'm talking about the kind that's used to get a reaction or to get someone to do something that they normally wouldn't do if it wasn't exaggerated.
People will sometimes exaggerate to get sympathy. They will make their situation worse than it actually is so that the person feels bad for them and comforts them. Kids are great at exaggeration and often use it to get their way. One of the worst things a parent can do is exaggerate the consequences of their kid's actions. It may seem convenient as it allows them to keep their kid from disobeying or doing something harmful to themselves. While warning your kids is important, if you exaggerate the results of said actions, it plants the seeds of distrust in the kid's mind. Once they get older and realize it wasn't true they will start to doubt the other warnings and throw them off as too harsh.
The media is awesome at exaggeration. Sometime I don't even think they mean to, as they are just looking for attention-grabbing content. But it's desensitizing us to real problems. We've heard about swine flu now for a few days and the media is covering it like it's already the Bubonic Plague. To be sure, there certainly is a risk for pandemic and nobody really denies what COULD happen. But I'm also hearing people say that it will DEFINITELY be nothing but a short-lived fad... it's just the media is hyping it up.
We do want to be informed. We do want to take precautions. But let's both keep this in perspective and also let's not denounce it just because the media is attention crazy (which is kind of like saying that Wal-mart is sales-happy... it's their business). Most thinking people will take precautions based on cost/risk analysis. If we locked ourselves in our houses for the next year we'd be pretty safe, but who would do that? The cost is too high. But the other side is also dangerous - purely dismissing any and all threats just because the media is making a big deal of it. All pandemics start small and I'd venture to say (not being an expert) that they will evolve as they spread - just because we have a treatment now doesn't mean it will always be treatable. Panic? No. Deny? No.
Until the chances of dying from Swine Flu exceed the chances of dying in my car on the way to work tomorrow, I'm probably not going to change my lifestyle much. Could it hurt me? Yeah, but that's part of being human and living in a harsh world.
Taking a break this week - but don't worry, next week will have a double layer of buttery goodness.
American History 101
The decade of the 1940's was one of the most destructive in the 20th Century. Yet it is the most forgotten in terms of remembrance. True, we have Veterans Day, the Holocaust Museum, and the World War II Memorial, but the truths and ideas that made the 1940's so destructive have crept back into our society and even into our families. The Holocaust was one of the most publicized mass annihilation of a single race of people.
The Third Reich in Germany, courtesy of Adolf Hitler, began as a social reform movement. Adolf Hitler had bigger plans though. The engines needed for the change he planned were already in place; engines like bias, discontent, poor economy, and big promises of new leaders - sound familiar? Hitler told the people of Germany, who elected him, that the reason life was so difficult was because of 'wrong' people having the majority of the money. They were told these people had gotten this wealth by taking advantage of the German people.
Hitler told the Germans that as a people they needed to unite in this time of need. The bias that existed in their hearts against those better off than they or those who were simply different, began to grow into a sentiment of social isolationism. Out of this came the beginning of this epoch came in the form “Kristal Nacht” - Night of the Broken Glass. This was the first major outward demonstration of violence against the Jewish people. Many Jewish synagogues, shops, and businesses were destroyed, as well as many Jewish people beaten, robbed, and killed. All with the mute consent of the German police and other authorities.
One year later, the mass concentration and destruction of the Jewish people began. While it began small, it blossomed into one of the greatest genocides in history. Yet, the seeds of the genocide are as old as history itself. Frightening as it is, they are appearing again in society.
Bias is an ever existent component of society and has long been the cause of conflict around the globe. In recent time, discontent has merged with a fear of the poor world economy. Big political promises are so common, people won't buy into them unless it is an election year. Even then, they only believe the promises that they want to hear. As in Germany, we today enjoy having a “jew” to blame, because it makes us feel like it is not our fault - as well as allows us to feel like we are helping “fix” the situation.
The men who became the most despicable killers in the holocaust were regular, average people. Store owners, shopkeepers, clerks, bankers, farmers, college students, reserve soldiers, politicians, and religious people. The people of America are prime targets for anything the political leaders of today would ask them to do.
Do I think that the next great genocide will be in America? No. But we are at the stage where we don't think for ourselves but instead believe what we are told and follow along like “we are supposed to”. The patriots that began this country thought about what was being demanded of them, and as a result began one of the most world-changing events in history. Perhaps we should go back to the old ways, and think carefully before we act! Think about that.
Taxes & Texas
It's over. At least I hope it is. I wonder if Treasury Secretary Geitner did his own taxes this year. But the big non-news is the tea parties. CNN says they aren't family viewing, and of course CNN's Anderson Cooper knows all about family friendly.
In an interesting timed report, the Department of Homeland Security warns of "rightwing extremist activity". Although they have no specific information, things like illegal immigration, gun control legislation, and a lessening of nation defense tend to encourage those radical rightwingers. Maybe it's just because those things don't seem to get anyone at Homeland Security concerned.
Of course, that doesn't bother Texas much. They just might just take their big hats a leave. While some say the Texas Governors reference to secession is extreme - is it really more extreme than the federal government buying up the finical markets, subjecting our economy to a global oversight, or
Making The Rounds
We already knew that Castro is a big fan of President Obama - and that Democrats are are big fans of Castro - but now it's on to other world leaders as President Obama mixes it up with Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega. But remember, it's not what's accomplished at these things, it's all about the 'atmosphere'. At least he got a brand new anti-American book. I'm sure that'll be a good read.
Level Playing Fields
It's just not fair that the terrorists don't know what to expect, so the administration has released the memos detailing different interrogation techniques. Not only will the terrorists now have a good idea of what their up against, our allies probably won't be as quick to share information with us - who knows where it'll end up.
But the administration has stated that there will be no prosecution of CIA personal that followed the approved guidelines, making this all one unnecessary exercise in pointlessness. Except for the terrorists. They win.
Three good - okay, amazing - shots left the same number of dead Pirates and a single free Captain. The SEALs were cleared to take the shot if the Captain's life was in immediate danger. Really? What exactly is the norm for being held captive by pirates - just semi-danger?
But now the pirates are out for revenge. Maybe the the whole negotiate with them 'playbook' was a mistake. Do they think piracy is a business and they've been wronged? Don't they realize that using the potential confiscation of property and wealth as leverage to force some kind of payment is the Governments job?
A little light on articles this week. We'll try to make it up to you. So as always, tell your friends. And if you have something you want to say, let us know.
Where's You Money?
Remember all that open accountability that went along with the stimulus bill? When it comes to finding out where all the money went, your best bet - and anyone else's - is Google:
Local news has been by far the best source of information so far. If you want to know how a local government is going to spend the money, Google around, Lexis-Nexis a bit.
That's good to know.
The Bridge Bill
If you're still looking for specifics, you can google a project using $11 million of the stimulus. Just search for, 'microsoft campus bridge'. We'll be splitting the cost of the bridge with Bill Gates, for a walkway spanning the highway dividing the Microsoft campus.
Microsoft 'traffic' will account for less than 50% of the walkway use, so I guess they're paying their way - but even then, the stimulus is building a bridge? They say it will create jobs for 18 months. I didn't realize that we only needed the new jobs to last a year and a half. Well, I guess then we could just spend another trillion in 2011.
The Wizard of Ob
President Obama told his fans on the other side of the world, that his followers on this side of the world - or his 'friends' in the press - wanted to know why he hadn't solved all the world's problems in his first international tour. Nice thought. Turns out what they really wanted to know was why he hadn't made any real progress on any of the major situations we face.
I guess you just shouldn't look behind the curtain.
North Korea launched a satellite into orbit. Unless you don't live in North Korea, then it's more like they built a really big Estes model rocket, which unfortunately landed in the water. Guess they won't be able to use it again. I hate it when that happens.
Some say this shows they're not a threat. Yeah, it's just that they could end up hitting anyone. It's like giving a flamethrower to a drunk monkey - you know someone is getting burned, you just don't know who.
Sticks and Stones
In light of the mixed results on North Korea's science fair day - President Obama has announced that in the future, words must mean something.
"Words must mean something."
But that's not all - check out what his other words mean:
...as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. We have to insist, "Yes, we can." ...we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same...
Of course there are some that don't see a future world filled with bunnies and singing chipmunks. Not only do we use nuclear weapons to deter other nuclear powers from using theirs - we use them to deter non-nuclear threats as well. Yes, we are the only nation to use a nuke, and we used it to end a war that would have had an even greater cost in American lives had we not used 'the bomb'.
Israel uses nuclear weapons to deter conventional warfare every day. And I don't think President Obama will be able to convince them to 'disarm'.
So with the Obama administration wanting to dismantle our nuclear warfare, as well as cut back on 'old' conventional warfare - what exactly will we be left with? Spitballs?
But he has words for those that oppose his idea as well:
Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. That's how wars begin. That's where human progress ends.
Very true, as long as his ideas go unchallenged, there won't be war. It'll be surrender. Because, as we all know from the playground, words will never hurt you.
Remember Swiss Family Robinson? Them's some nasty looking pirates. And they're still around. For the first time in more than a hundred years - according to Attorney General Eric Holder - pirates took a ship flying the American flag. It seems like the pirates could have made a better choice, but with times changing, I assumed they were just hopeful.
Although the pirates got away with the captain, the crew did take the ship back. That's a mistake some experts say:
...offer no resistance; this could lead to unnecessary violence and harm to crew.
It seems it would do little to dissuade future attacks, but I guess it leads to becoming an expert on pirate captivity.
Not Too Bright
A few others learned a lesson about choosing a victim this week. When looking for a dog to kill, don't pick the dog Marcus Luttrell - the only survivor of a 200 man attack on his 4 man SEAL team - was given to help him cope with the loss of his men.
Which I'm sure they realized after he chased them across three counties, into a police roadblock.
Of course they should thank the police, because that's better than meeting Luttrell's two Berettas.
I must say - I apologize.
I honestly didn't see this coming. I write up a half-sarcastic apology to the British Empire for some not quite up to snuff gifts - that's it. How was I to know that once the ball was rolling, this whole thing would snowball into our President apologizing for our country.
My bad. I was just kidding. Mostly.
I thought we got this all out before the election. I thought the speech in Berlin would be enough, when then candidate Obama said:
"We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions."
Really? To the Germans? That's the time to apologize for our country's actions around the world? Was it saving their country from a uncontrollable dictator? Or just our part in bringing down the wall that separated Berlin?
But now that the campaigning is over, now that he won not only the election, but - more importantly it would seem - the approval and adoration of those in other countries, wouldn't it be time to stop with the apologies? Apparently not, here's some of the latest:
"There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive..."
"we may not always have the best answer, but we can always encourage the best answer and support the best answer."
"In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world..."
Yes, before some cries 'out of context', there are balances to those quotes. He blames Europe for their problems as well. But does that really matter? He's not the arbiter of the world, trying to impartially settle the disputes of two nations. He's the President of the United States, and he's saying those things on foreign soil.
Here's the point - he hasn't stopped campaigning. Before or after the election - it's not about our country, it's about him. This one last quote sheds a little light on things:
"I would like to think that with my election and the early decisions that we've made, that you're starting to see some restoration of America's standing in the world."
That's right folks. For the first time, you can be proud to be an American too. Not because of America, but because of Barack Obama.
To be clear, I'm not ashamed to be an American. I don't apologize for my country. Sure, we're not perfect, we've made - and learned from - mistakes. But we do not need to apologize to the world for who we are. Except maybe for our latest mistake - remember last November? Sorry about that.
Life Is Not Fair
[As we approach April 15th, here's a repeat from
a little over 5 years ago. Things were
Death and taxes two things everyone must experience. Oh, wait almost everyone must experience them. You see, we cannot change how we are born into this world, how much money our parents have, or how talented we are. Life is not fair.
Currently, everyone who works and receives an income pay 10% in taxes on the first $7150. After that, you will pay 15% until $29,050, at which point you will pay 25%. The federal government uses a graduated income tax on all working individuals, which means that the more you make, the more tax you pay. The other possibility would be a flat tax, which means that everyone pays the same percentage of his or her income.
One of the things that President Bush wants to do during his second term is to simplify the tax code. One of the ideas brought to the table was abolish the graduated income tax and implement a flat consumption tax. This is similar to the value added tax in many European countries. As expected, the idea summoned resistance from the left and has earned the label, unfair. They are right, it does seem unfair but only because the system would merely be adjusting from what already is unfair.
A flat tax mandates that everyone pay an equal percentage of his or her income THAT sounds fair. How should we deal with those who do not make much money? Quite simply, they pay less. If the government decides that it needs 20% of everyones income, but charges some less and some more, then they are messing with our standard of living. The government has been trying to raise the standard of living for low-income families at the expense of those who they deem well off.
I ask you, How is this fair?
There are many factors that go into what our standard of living will be - some factors we cannot change. However, I do not want the government deciding what is too much or too little. Let the combination of fate and effort determine how high our standard of living is. Being well off is not one of our inalienable rights.
Nowhere is this more evident than if we impose a consumption tax instead of an income tax. Imagine approaching the checkout counter with a TV in you shopping cart. The cashier proceeds to ask you how much you make, how many kids you have, and how much you gave to charity then they assess your sales tax. You realize that Uncle Sam has penalized you for making more than your less fortunate neighbors have. While this would seem absurd, it is precisely what a graduated income tax accomplishes.
Flat taxes are fair, period however, they may be less benevolent. Nevertheless, before you criticize me for not caring about the poor, I remind you that governments are inherently inefficient (that is a whole other article right there) and artificially forcing benevolence is not economically sound not to mention it encourages tax evasion. We do not need the government telling us to give money to the poor because that is not the purpose of our government. Americans have their own way of giving to the poor remember the tsunami? We showed the world that individuals in our country were willing to help those people affected halfway around the world without the government forcing us to.
Graduated income taxes are no different from welfare. Of course, once you have hordes of people dependent on the government to establish a higher standard of living for them, you inevitably make people mad when you have to take it away. The problem is not the flat tax; the problem is that those who have been paying less than their share. Think of it this way we all get one vote; we all pay one tax rate.
I will never win an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash because I am not very fast. Should they allow me to start 3/4 of the way to the finish to make it even? This would be stupid and yet somehow people tell us that it is not fair that some make more money than others do. Life is not fair.